SKYHAWK SOCCER READY TO BEGIN TITLE DEFENSE IN QUEST FOR CONFERENCE CROWN
2014 Media Guide
MARTIN, Tenn. - Success has come in bunches the past several years for the University of Tennessee at Martin women’s soccer team dating back to the hiring of head coach Phil McNamara, who enters his fifth season at the helm of the Skyhawks.
Coach McNamara preaches to his players that current success is not to be based off previous years’ accomplishments, but the accolades have been bountiful when it comes to the Skyhawk soccer program since 2011. McNamara and the Skyhawks began their string of championship performances with the program’s first Ohio Valley Conference Tournament championship in 2011, initiating the first of an OVC record four consecutive championships – including two regular season and tournament crowns.
“I tell the girls that there is no point in comparing our team to previous years, it’s all about this year,” said McNamara. “We can only be the best that we can be this year, with this group of players. For me, I think there is huge potential here. I really like the spirit of the group, the work ethic is outstanding, the fitness levels are higher than we have had and I think we have a couple higher impact players than we’ve had in years past. On paper, I think we are better at this stage than we were last year, but until we start playing games and winning games, only time will tell.”
With such storied success in the past five years, the Skyhawks will look to the next group of seniors to carry the torch in the 2014 campaign after the loss of five seniors to graduation. The void left by seniors Hannah McGowen, Sarah Tompkins, Jessica Horvatich, Hannah Fessenden and Abi Sanvee along with All-OVC first team selection Aoife Lennon will have to be filled by the eight-member senior class. The class which includes Amy Maksimowicz, Lucy Pater, Alyssa Curtis, Sam Dunn, Mariah Klenke, Ashley Reveiz, Ashlie Watson and Dominika Conc has won 38 games over the course of the previous three seasons, a program record.
“It’s a good size class and they have been extremely important for us in the past,” said McNamara. “It’s a class which has done well for themselves and for the program. We are very proud of this group and it still stings that we lost in the final last year, at home, and I think that these seniors want to put the record straight by coming out strong this year.”
With such a strong senior class to anchor the Skyhawk squad, the addition of key newcomers could infuse a veteran squad with youth and ability. Seven newcomers grace the Skyhawk squad, including three international players with decorated careers and two Tennessee natives. Look for junior transfer Rianna Jarrett who played for the Republic of Ireland, scoring seven goals in UEFA international play, to make an immediate impact.
“I think that the majority of the new players will find a way to be plugged in right away,” said McNamara. “I think that there are a couple of them that will make a big conference impact. That’s exciting considering how young they are and new they are to the college level. I think it complements our group of seniors while filling a couple positions that we needed to fill. We feel like we are pretty well balanced.”
The Skyhawks will look to their defense once again to be an incredible strength. While the back four has been dominant in years past, the play of Klenke – the Skyhawk goalkeeper – has been record setting. She continues to rewrite the UT Martin record book, ranking amongst the career leaders in multiple categories. Her seven shutouts last season not only led the league but tied for the program’s single season shutout mark. She currently ranks in the top five in 11 statistical categories while ranking first in career shutouts (15), career victories (31) and single season victories by goalkeeper (12 in 2012). She tallied five or more saves on eight occasions and tallied a 0.96 goals against average last season.
“In the women’s game, much of your success is on the quality of your goalkeeper and strikers,” stated McNamara. “The longer I’m in this game I realize the importance of a quality goalkeeper. Mariah has had an immense career at UT Martin. I think she smashes all the records this fall, and that record will be very difficult to ever break going forward.”
Klenke will rely heavily on the play of the back four defensive unit to relieve the pressure. Maksimowicz and Pater, a pair of senior defenders, proved to be a defensive power in the backfield for the Skyhawks yet again, starting in all 21 matches last season. Both helped lead a Skyhawk defensive line which produced eight shutout performances, including a stretch which saw opponents score just two goals over the course of seven matches. The defensive unit came up especially tight in overtime, holding their opponents scoreless in seven overtime periods. Look for Eva Heller, Temple Hughs, Deborah Schaudt, Taylor Fry and Kaci Mitchell to see action in the back.
“The quality of play that Amy brings, along with the leadership that Lucy brings and the quality of her play, presents a back four which will be very difficult to beat,” said McNamara. “We will have two new players in there this year who I think are quality players. We have to balance the youth of the back four, with the experience, by splitting the seniors. I think it is going to be the foundation of our success this year.”
The midfield unit will be led by the play of seniors Curtis and Conc. The duo both tallied eight points each last season, with Curtis notching four goals while Conc scored tallied two game-winners for the Skyhawks. The pair played and started in all 21 games last season while Curtis transitions from striker to midfielder. Look for Abby Masters, Jaclyn Heckle, Ashley Reveiz and Sam Dunn to see time at the position as well.
“I think the midfield area is certainly full of possibilities,” said McNamara. “Alyssa will play primarily in the center-mid for us this year, along with Dominika. I think the third spot is certainly up for grabs. There is some new potential for new players, but we also have returners like Jaclyn and Abby who have both came in strong for us this year.”
The Skyhawk strikers are a position with a lot potential for the upcoming season. Highlighted by sophomores Saphyra Coombs-James and Ellie Myrick, the strikers are looking to become a force in the attack game. After sitting out the entire 2013 season due to injury, Coombs-James is primed for a big year after being named the OVC’s Freshman of the Year in 2012. Myrick proved to be a dynamic player for the Skyhawks as a freshman, earning OVC All-Newcomer honors. She saw action in all 21 games, earning 15 starts along with scoring three goals and tallying three assists for nine points. Along with the sophomore pair, look for Watson, Heller and Olivia Bohlman to provide depth at the position.
“There is no question that we are going to be a major force going forward this year in comparison to any year that I have been here at UT Martin,” stated McNamara. “I have a lot of confidence in the five or six players that can play at those positions this year. If they can get off to a quick start and build confidence early against good level teams, I think they can have good individual years which gives us the foundation for a record year.”
UT Martin will begin the 2014 slate against Atlantic-10 foe Saint Louis under the lights on Friday, Aug. 22 before returning to action just two days later in a non-conference matchup against OVC rival Southeast Missouri on Sunday, Aug. 24. The Skyhawks will continue their four game homestand to open the season with another pair of home matches against Missouri Valley Conference foes Indiana State on Sunday, Aug. 31 and Evansville on Wednesday, Sept. 3.
“I like the fact that, including our exhibition, that we have five home games to start the season especially with the amount of new players we have coming in,” said McNamara. “We visit some big name programs including some of the best college soccer facilities in the country. It all provides the opportunity for our players to learn and become the best team possible before our conference season begins. Once we hit the road, the schedule gets pretty brutal. Our schedule should give us a good idea of how good we can be heading into OVC play.”
UT Martin will then leave the friendly confines of Skyhawk Field as they hit the road for a decisive six game road swing beginning at national powerhouse Missouri on Sunday, Sept. 7. The Skyhawks will then travel to Tulsa on Friday, Sept. 12 before making the trip to Big 12 foe Oklahoma State on Sunday, Sept. 14. From there the Skyhawks will travel east for a pair of games, opening at Kennesaw State on Friday, Sept. 19 before making the short trek to Georgia State on Sunday, Sept. 21.
“We could honestly be 30-40 percent better this year, but our results and record may not show it,” said McNamara. “The conference teams are not going to know exactly how good we are until we start OVC play because of how difficult our non-conference schedule is. We start out with four home games against similar high caliber opponents, and every game is going to be a dog fight, but also a way to prove ourselves and get better for conference.”
The defending OVC champions will cut their teeth on the road to open the conference slate with a trip to Jacksonville State on Friday, Sept. 26 before returning home to host Tennessee Tech on Sunday, Sept. 28. UT Martin will then alternate home and away the next two weekends, traveling to Southeast Missouri on Friday, Oct. 3 before making a stop at SIU Edwardsville on Sunday, Oct. 5. The Skyhawks will complete the home portion of the split when they play host to Eastern Kentucky on Friday, Oct. 10 before playing defending OVC Tournament champion Morehead State on Sunday, Oct. 12.
The Skyhawks will hit the road for their final road swing of the season when they travel to Eastern Illinois on Sunday, Oct. 19 before closing out the road slate at Belmont on Friday, Oct. 24. UT Martin will conclude the regular season with back-to-back home matches against OVC foes. The Skyhawks will play host to Austin Peay on Sunday, Oct. 26 before wrapping up the regular season against OVC rival Murray State on Friday, Oct. 31.
“I think we know the conference pretty well at this point,” said McNamara. “There will be several similar teams at the top, like in years past. The new coaches coming in certainly bring a new level of urgency and energy into their programs, so there are no teams on the schedule that you can circle a guarantee win. You’re going to have to go into every game ready to compete, work hard and earn the right to win games in this league. We hope that we can compete in the non-conference segment and get ready for conference play.”
As the balance begins to come into focus and the competition cranks up, look for the Skyhawks to look forward for future success rather in the rear view mirror at the shadow left behind in their quest for yet another OVC crown.